Flavorful herbs

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If you want to perk up almost any recipe, the quickest way to do it is to add fresh herbs. Grilled or roasted meats, salads, vegetables, soups, sauces and even fruit spring to life with a sprinkle or sprig of the right herb. Even better, herbs can replace salt in boosting flavor, and many contain antioxidants — substances that protect the body from toxins that can damage cells and cause disease.

Choosing and using herbs

Select fresh, brightly colored herbs with no signs of wilting or browning. You can wrap most herbs with a slightly damp paper towel, seal them in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Rinse herbs right before using; then blot dry with paper towels. Use kitchen shears to snip leaves from the stems of herbs. In most cases, you’ll want to discard stems and stalks, but there are exceptions: Cilantro and parsley stems can be chopped and added to dishes along with the leaves.

Certain bunched herbs, like mint and parsley, do well when stored in a glass of water, covered loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerated. If you change the water every two days, the herbs can last up to 10 days.

Cooking with Herbs

Because fresh herbs lose their flavor when cooked too long, they should be added right before the end of the cooking time unless a recipe says otherwise.

  • Add delicate herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint and parsley just before cooking ends.
  • Hardier herbs — such as oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme — can be added during the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Complementary Flavors

These herbs go well with these foods:

  • Basil: tomatoes, tomato sauces, peas, zucchini
  • Chives: sour cream–based dips, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Cilantro: Asian, Mexican and Caribbean dishes
  • Dill: carrots, fish, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes
  • Mint: carrots, fruit salad, peas, tea
  • Oregano: dried beans, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes
  • Parsley: potato salad, seafood, tabbouleh
  • Rosemary: fish, lamb, pork, potatoes, soups, stews
  • Sage: lamb, poultry, stuffings, cheese soufflé
  • Tarragon: chicken, eggs, fish, pasta, seafood
  • Thyme: eggs, potatoes, poultry, tomatoes

There are so many wonderful, fresh herbs to choose from in the produce department. Once you discover the oomph that fresh herbs can give to foods, they’ll become a shopping-list staple.

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